The Math Allergy

The other day, in speech class, we broke into groups. Each group came up with a story in ten minutes and then acted it out with finger puppets in front of the class. Following this, we discussed with painstaking superficiality the communication that transpired in each group during the story-making process, i.e. “Did you talk to your group when you made decisions?” This went on for the remainder of class.  There’s a reason why when you say, “math major” people back away in fear. It’s classes like this that misrepresent other fields of study.

When I respond to the only conversation starter adults can muster with college students, their immediate response is, “Oh, you must be smart!” Not that I can’t accept a compliment, but isn’t this a snub on every other major? They say it as if an English major wouldn’t have the same, or greater, intellect, education, discipline, or passion than an Physics or Math major. Well, quite frankly, when speech classes involve legal adults creating puppet shows and talking about their communication skills, I can’t take a Communications major seriously either. These activities would be considered applicable, nay, darling!, for a Kindergarten class; in fact, it’d be a great exercise to get little kids to feel more comfortable with their artistic abilities. But, age the audience fifteen or twenty years, and I suddenly find myself wondering why I’m paying to take this class.

There is so much that could be done in a speech class. An entire semester of speech education could be taught centered on Winston Churchill’s speeches alone, with the student analyzing what makes a speech great and mimicking that type in their own speech-giving. Or an entire course could be built on the persuasive speaking: students might practice pitching an idea to colleagues, modeling the Monroe Sequence, or presenting a call to arms based on some great leader of the past or present. Or, even simpler, speech could be more interesting, more rigorous. Speech isn’t a blow-off course because it isn’t important; it’s a blow-off course because it’s not challenging.

The people who shrink away from math or science do so because it’s taught as a challenging course. The people who love most subjects but are drawn towards math and science are attracted to them because they present challenges. Who would want to major in teaching adults to puppet at a grade school level?

Don’t let there be a misunderstanding. There are English majors out there who are geniuses, fearsome foes armed with the mighty pen, elegant weavers of stories; these people do not fear engineers or mathematicians. They have a passion for challenges just like (the stereotype of) engineers. As the studious business major, or the gifted interior decorating major show us, no degree can be written off because it’s not math. Don’t forget the large number of engineers who shrink away from English majors because forming complete sentences is beyond their range of capability!  It’s a two-way street, though I am only addressing one side.

Next time someone tells you his or her major is Mathematics, don’t cower. Don’t assume they are smarter than you because they love science or math. Be proud of your passion. Own your profession.

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7 thoughts on “The Math Allergy

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  1. Here here! Every major is smart in their own way wether that be creatively, analytically, practically, etc. smart. It’s just that certain types of being smart are more appreciated and that’s an American stigma that needs to change. I applause this post!

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  2. Wow! This was so brilliantly written. I completely agree. Especially considering that I have a major in Psychology right now, I battle the stereotype that psychologists just talk about their feelings all day long. I admit that I do cower in fear of math majors, however I believe this post will be my inspiration to go and talk to that math nerd in the complete back or front of the class for something other than help on a problem. Thanks for the post! I think I could always use A Little Lane in my day.

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